Hot Take: Inspirational story. Mediocre movie.
The story of Vinny Pazienza is incredible. Most boxing stories of any length are. At some point, a boxer who fights 30-plus times has a near-death experience in the ring, it seems. That was true for Pazienza who nearly died after a fight with Roger Mayweather in 1988. That’s where the story of Bleed For This begins. However, Bleed For This doesn’t contain one but two comeback stories as the real inspirational tale begins after Pazienza breaks his neck in a car accident and is told he’ll never fight again.
There’s no denying the inspirational story of Vinny Pazienza isn’t amazing. The real question about Bleed For This is, “Is the movie as amazing?” Well, not really. It’s nothing in particular about the movie itself. Miles Teller does a good job of portraying “The Pazmanian Devil” even though it’s tough to live up to the larger than life character he’s given the task of portraying. The boxing scenes are decent although this is the fourth boxing movie in the last year and a half and the boxing action probably ranks fourth amongst the four. The supporting cast has a few recognizable faces and Aaron Eckhart is especially good as Kevin Rooney, Pazienza’s trainer who helps him come back from both the Mayweather loss and the car accident. The movie is okay but never elevates itself to the level this inspirational tale feels like it could reach.
That being said, Bleed For This is compelling enough to hold your interest for the nearly 2 hour run time. For the most part, it has a by the numbers feel. We’ve seen this before even though no one has ever really seen a comeback like this. It’s a bigger than life story but the resulting film feels like it could have worked just as well as an HBO movie rather than for the big screen. Unfortunately, the film tries to add drama by manipulating the facts and upping the ante with gaps in his fighting career. What’s hard to understand is why would the filmmakers think this story needs to up the ante and even more importantly, why would they think this wouldn’t get noticed considering it happened in the last 25-30 years?
If you’re a fan of boxing movies but not a boxing historian or you love inspirational true stories brought to life on the big screen but aren’t miffed by factual inconsistencies, Bleed For This will be right up your alley. Knowing enough of the story prevented me from taking the plunge fully into this tale that tries to throw too many knockout punches when it could have jabbed its way to victory.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
Most of the characters portrayed in the film have a “larger than life” quality about them. It makes bringing them to the big screen tougher. Eckhart as Kevin Rooney is the one person in the film who manages to do so better than anyone else.
- The Comeback From the Neck Injury
The film puts in a lot of effort to show the pain and struggle Pazienza went through and Teller’s best moments take place when wearing the Halo.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- The Credits
This was going to go under Pros but after thinking about it, it really would have been a backhanded compliment. In the credits, we’re treated to some clips of the key players in the film including Paz. It’s an interesting look but also suggests the film might have been better as a documentary rather than a fictionalized reshuffling of the facts.
- Why Play With the Truth?
After Pazienza lost to Roger Mayweather, he went on to fight seven times before his bout with Gilbert Dele. The film paints a different picture that fits the narrative and creates a comeback that never really happened the way the film portrays it. The same happens after his neck injury as the film leaves out other fights and embellishes the actual fight that occurred. Adding drama to a true event rarely works.